New silver coin will mark commissioning

In the spring of 2015, 21-year-old Kalynn Butchko was notified that she had been wait-listed for the United States Air Force Academy and reluctantly began looking elsewhere to start her college career.

The senior mechanical engineering major from Las Vegas, NV., chose Norwich to take advantage of opportunities with the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFROTC).

“Norwich had something more to offer than all of the other schools,” Butchko said. “It’s just the right amount of military and just the right amount of college. I’m honestly glad I didn’t get into the Academy.”

One of the opportunities she probably never expected was to create a brand new tradition at Norwich.

Recently, she and five of her peers, representing their respective ROTC military branches, were selected to serve on a prestigious committee charged with coming up with a design for a new coin that is destined to stand the test of time and become ingrained in Norwich heritage.

For the first time in collegiate military history, Norwich University will be awarding newly commissioned seniors silver challenge coins. The university’s president is hoping graduates will keep the coins forever as their “personal coins” and a reminder of their roots.

“I am always looking for positive and inspiring new traditions,” said President Richard W. Schneider, who is currently serving his 27th year heading the university.

“Norwich has been first in many areas, and I really think we have conceived a great (tradition) with these coins,” he said.

Schneider, who has announced he will retire in June 2020, explained that the coins are a great way to leave a lasting mark and start a tradition which falls in line with the guiding values of Norwich University.

“It is important to leave things better than you found them,” Schneider said. “It is a Norwich tradition, and how we build our reputation.”

In Schneider’s view, the coins celebrate the legacy of the university’s historical bicentennial year, and complement another, broader, military tradition.

“We give U.S. silver dollars to first salutes. So, we thought why not give commissioning cadets a silver Norwich coin?” Norwich President Richard Schneider

The idea for the coins originated from Col. Jennifer Pritzker, whose organization, the Tawani Foundation, was responsible for a $25 million gift which kick-started Norwich’s $100 million Forging the Future bicentennial campaign.

“Col. Pritzker gave Norwich the gift that helped to build the Sullivan Museum,” Schneider said. “She was a trustee for 10 years and provided the lead fundraising gift that helped us to build and renovate Mack, Dewey, North, and Ainsworth (halls).”

When the idea for the coins was first proposed, each ROTC branch’s professor of military science (PMS) was asked to select two cadets to serve on the committee charged with designing the coin.

Alfred Freed, 22, a senior mechanical engineering major from Wiesbaden, Germany, who was selected to serve on the committee, expressed his enthusiasm surrounding the commissioning coins.

“I think it’s a really cool thing to do, and the fact that we’re doing this during the bicentennial makes it even better,” Freed said.

Butchko agreed, stating that it was an honor to serve on the committee.

“When our colonel for the Air Force Detachment asked who wanted to be a part of it, it sounded like an awesome opportunity, so I volunteered,” Butchko said. “It’s just really cool to be on the team that’s designing the coin.”

Butchko explained that the process of designing the coin wasn’t exactly a simple or straightforward process.

“It was tricky,” she said. “We had been tasked with making something that everyone would like.”

The double-sided and unpainted coins will be minted using pure silver. The front side of the coin will feature the official Norwich University seal.

“We designed the backside,” Freed said. “The back will have symbols that are significant and representative of Norwich.”

According to Freed, the reverse side of the custom coin will feature symbols of each service on display at the Arlie Pond Memorial Plaza at Sabine Field. It will also feature a mountain range, symbolic of Paine Mountain and the training that each branch conducts on its expanse.

The coin’s back will also have the phrase “We the People,” which symbolizes the oath that commissioned officers take to protect the United States Constitution.

According to Schneider, each of the coins will also feature the individual cadet’s year of commission, even if they don’t commission at the same time as the rest of their class.

“We have to mint enough for cadets that do not commission with the rest of their class,” Schneider said. “No matter their circumstance, we will see to it that they receive a coin when they commission.”

According to Schneider, any Norwich alumni who commissions at any point will also get a coin that has their year of commission etched into the bottom.

“I have had civilian students that decide to enlist and go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) after they graduated,” Schneider said. “As long as they write me a letter, I will make sure to send them a coin too.”

Mary Roux, Manager of Contracted and Auxiliary Services for Norwich, whose office is located in the Cadet Uniform Store, was placed in charge of the design committee, and served as the staff advisor, facilitating the design process for the new coins.

“The president asked me to meet with the students who are involved with the committee,” Roux said. “I’ve really just been a facilitator of the process.”

Roux also served as the liaison between the mint company and the university and is expecting each coin to cost the university approximately $30.

According to Schneider, with roughly 100 cadets commissioning each year, the coins should only cost about $3,000 per year in total.

“The president is going to present the coins to the commissioning class as a complimentary gift from the school,” Roux said. “The idea is to give families an opportunity to have something to commemorate the day themselves.”

The Cadet Uniform Store will sell generic commissioning coins for families and friends who want their own minted copies, or to cadets who would like an extra coin.

These coins will not include the commissioning year on them, and the exact price is yet to be announced.

According to Butchko, the coins represent more than commissioning.

“Personally, I think it’s going to represent a family thing,” she said. “I credit my family for helping me get to where I am today.”

Butchko also explained how the coins symbolize the end of one endeavor and the beginning of another.

“I know some people may or may not have the same connection to the military that I do,” Butchko said. “But for me, this coin symbolizes the transition to my career and a pretty big milestone in my life.”

Butchko views the coins as something she can share with her peers as they move on from Norwich.

“Some of us are going to serve for 20 years, others are going to do the minimum, but all of us will have the coin, and that’s something we can share, something that is forever.”

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